What is bullying?

Bullying is when one person or a group of people, deliberately hurt another person, more than once, and it’s hard for the person on the receiving end to defend themselves.

It can help to use the acronym STOP to help spot a bullying situation (Several Times on Purpose). Bullying between children and young people is a form of peer-on-peer abuse which is a safeguarding issue. Children can also be bullied by adults – see Bullied by a teacher (kidscape.org.uk). 

Bullying behaviour takes many forms but can include: 

  • Verbal abuse – name calling, unkind comments, spreading rumours, laughing at someone, forcing someone to do or say something, encouraging someone to hurt themselves 
  • Physical abuse – hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, burning, non-consensual touch.  
  • Emotional abuse – excluding someone from the group, forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do.  
  • Cyber/Online abuse – messages, posts, videos that are intended to hurt or cause harm, pretending to be someone else to cause them harm. 

It is often targeted at perceived ‘difference’ and may be driven by prejudice and harmful attitudes towards others. For example, a child may feel they are targeted for their race, faith, disability, sexuality, gender, age, appearance, and social status.   

Peer-on-peer abuse 

Peer-on-peer abuse is a children’s safeguarding issue and should be dealt with by the school’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) in line with their safeguarding policy.  Keeping children safe in education - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) makes it clear that children are capable of abusing their peers (this includes bullying, cyberbullying, prejudice-based and discriminatory bullying) and schools should have clear policies and procedures in place to minimise the risk.  Policies should detail how staff will respond, record and support those involved in any incidents.  

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